With flames blazing throughout various regions of the country this wildfire season, most notably the historic disaster in California, wildfire operations have become an around-the-clock operation.
Recognizing the growing need and importance for logistical support, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support reached out to its interagency partners to change the way it supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildland Fire Protection Program.
DLA Troop Support hosted representatives from the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies, including DLA Distribution, for a two-day visit in November to review the 2018 wildfire season and plan for future operations. For the first time, DLA Troop Support supply chain representatives met face-to-face with their customers, and the attending agencies agreed to make year-round planning decisions moving forward.
“As evident at the culmination of the 2018 Wildland Fire Protection Program [after-action review], the fire season is no longer May 1 through Nov. 1 – it is year round,” Dorothy O’Connell, DLA Troop Support J3/5 customer support liaison, said. “The days following [the meeting] resulted in the worst fires in history for the state of California and the fires continue to burn. DLA is ready to support 365 days.”
In 2017, DLA hosted a recap meeting with the agencies at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, but the supply chain representatives were not involved.
According to O’Connell, DLA Troop Support manages about 90 percent of the total DLA support to the WFPP.
In 2018, DLA Troop Support accounted for $36 million in sales on 276 items from across its five supply chains, out of more than 300 items that DLA provided to the U.S. Forest Service.
“This was a huge opportunity to bring the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and DLA partners to DLA Troop Support to facilitate the 2018 AAR,” O’Connell said. “Being on the ground gave the participants a visual picture of DLA Troop Support’s capabilities as well as dedication to the WFPP.”
What normally takes months of planning happened in two days, said O’Connell. The new planning process will allow DLA Troop Support to procure contracts much earlier and allow the U.S. Forest Service to plan better.
“In past years it took several conference calls with the different business areas within DLA Troop Support to get the [customer re-order point] levels established for the next fire season,” David Haston, U.S. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management Equipment and Chemicals Branch chief, said. “This new approach is both effective and efficient - we get the AAR completed while the fire season is still fresh in everyone’s mind, while also establishing next season’s CROP levels while avoiding multiple conference calls.”
The U.S. Forest Service uses its CROP as an ordering metric for purchasing supplies. At the planning meeting, the U.S. Forest Service customers worked with the supply chain representatives to determine their CROP levels of each item based on their usage and ordering history and how much they project they’ll need in the upcoming year.
The new plan also allows the U.S. Forest Service to plan appropriately to ensure their capabilities are not jeopardized.
“DLA Troop Support can better support the 2019 CROP by ensuring 100 percent levels,” O’Connell said. “The U.S. Forest Service can replenish their cache inventories earlier than in previous years as a result. In addition, by having the 2019 CROP levels now allows for greater, if any, recovery time in the event of delays in delivery schedules.”
O’Connell said the new approach led to an active engagement and focus towards the WFPP. She says there is an increase in senior leader involvement, dedicated DLA Distribution San Joaquin warehousing and personnel, and committed resources to the program from the DLA Customer Interaction Center.
She said DLA Troop Support has already seen success from the new planning approach as they had a team visit the U.S. Forest Service in Boise, Idaho Nov. 26-30 for a follow-up meeting.
In addition to improved planning and establishing the mission as year-round operation, there is belief that the relationship between the agencies will continue to grow.
“The Forest Service receives tremendous support from DLA Troop Support,” Haston said. “We have a close working relationship and count on their responsiveness throughout the year. We look forward to working closely with Troop Support leadership in the future, as our relationship continues to mature.
The DLA CIC is scheduled to host the 2019 after-action review with the same planning approach.